The waglan island: The lights, the elements and the skies

Department: Real Estate and Construction
Active Dates: 2018-2021
PI: DR. S.W. POON
COIS: DR. K. Y. DENG, IR K.F. MAN, IR K.Y. MA, MR. T.W. TSIN, PROF. W.M. LEUNG, MRS. ADA K.Y. YAU
PHOTOGRAPHERS: MR. WILSON WO

PREFACE

Waglan is a small and remote island to the south-east of Hong Kong. It is barren and inhabitable but the light erected on the island is well known to the seafarers. For many decades, Waglan is mentioned while highlighting the strong wind recorded in times of the approach of severe tropical storms.

This project is aimed to trace the full history of the Waglan Island which commenced its essential functions from 1893. The integral findings would not only rebuild the full history of the lighthouse compound initiated, designed and built by the China Imperial

Maritime Customs Service; but also define the intangible legacy of those involved in keeping the lights and recording the elements.

Project Background

Waglan Island was once among the earliest choices for lighthouse construction in mid-nineteenth century. Situated within China’s territory no agreement with Imperial Qing Government was reached. As part of the deal for the Gap Rock Lighthouse in 1892, the Waglan Lighthouse was built one year later by the Imperial Maritime Customs Service. In 1896, the Cape D’ Aguilar Lighthouse was closed due to its overlapping function with the Waglan Lighthouse. The Waglan Lighthouse was transferred to Hong Kong in 1901 as a result of the lease of the New Territory from 1898.

The origin and documents of the history of the Waglan Lighthouse compound were traced in Hong Kong and the UK regarding its design and construction, and maintenance of the lights. The work and function of the weather station erected on Waglan were recorded. The different kinds of personnel stationing on the Island and the interesting stories of their work, life and culture were recollected.

Waglan was beyond a single function island. It has been a signal and reporting station by telegraph linking to Hong Kong, a radio direction beacon installed post war, later the Royal Navy radar station and used for the Royal Air Force in air traffic control, a fog signal and a weather observatory which provides even today the approaching extreme weather condition.

Since August 1989, the Waglan Lighthouse has become automated.  Despite the wide use of GPS by seafarers, the light from Waglan is still functioning and has always been a warm and familiar welcome home sign for over one and a quarter century.

Irrespective of the different types of work on the island, the people stationed there faced the common challenges of the hot and the cold, the rains and the gusts, let alone the hard living on the island facing the Pacific Ocean. Yet the beaming of the light always stays in the minds of those getting close to the island, whether travelling far or near. The dissemination of the lonely men’s stories reinstalls the forgotten memory of the lighthouse-related work on this frontier Island, the collection and transmission of important weather information, as well as the unique lifestyle and culture over there.

In 2000 the Lighthouse was declared a monument in 2000.

The e-pamphlet:
The Waglan Island: The Lights, the Elements and the Men (PDF)

Video Talk on e-pamphlet (27 mins) in Cantonese

Drone Video Talk on the Island and the people (28 mins) in English

The waglan island: The lights, the elements and the skies 1
UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG
FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE